K-Wire (Kirschner Wire) vs. Steinmann Pin – Usage and Comparison

Many wire terms are used interchangeably, from mandrel to guide wire to k-wire to Steinmann Pin to Intramedullary pin to fixation pin. Most of the time, there are very subtle differences between the names, depending on design, diameter, threads, usage and the context of the speaker. We are here to dispel the myths and help you correctly name an orthopedic pin the next time you call us up.

Typical Steinmann Pin Attributes
Steinmann Pin Diameter: 1.6mm+
Steinmann Pin Material: Stainless Steel
Steinmann Pin Tip: Trocar Tip 15 Degrees
Steinmann Pin Usage: A stainless steel spike used for the internal fixation of fractures of long bones.
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Typical K-Wire Attributes
K-Wire Diameter: .9mm to 1.5mm
K-Wire Material: Stainless Steel or Nitinol
K-Wire Tip: Trocar Tip 15 Degrees
K-Wire Usage: K-wires are typically used for temporary fixation (basically as a guidewire) during some operations. After definitive fixation they are then removed. For instance, the k-wire is placed in the bone, a cannulated screw goes over the K-Wires, is screwed in, and the K-Wire is pulled out.
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Photo by – http://www.flickr.com/photos/23am/

In animal medicine, pins and wires are the most commonly used implants, due to cost and simplicity of surgical process when using them. The only downside is their limited usage when used alone and without additional equipment to treat fractures.(Whenever we talk about veterinary surgery we try to include a picture of a puppy to lighten the mood)



The differentiation between a pin and a wire is typically the diameter. Smaller diameters are referred to as wires and larger diameters are referred to as pins. Although there is no standardized definition of diameter cut off, typically pins are between 1.5 mm (1/16 inch) and 6.5 mm (1/4 inch) in diameter. Kirschner wires (K-wires) are 0.9 to 1.5 mm (0.035, 0.045, 0.062 inches) in diameter. The most common tip for K-Wires and Steinmann Pins is a three-sided trocar tip being better suited to penetrating cortical bone and the later able to be braced against the endosteal surface of the bone’s cortex or applicable to lodging in cancellous bone. Our clients have the options of Trocar, Diamond (two-sided chisel), radius, or blunt tips.

Steinmann Pin and K-WiresBetween the two, the Steinmann Pin was introduced first as a way to stabilize fractures with a traction type device. The Steinmann Pin was driven through the skin and into the bone. It was used an anchor for the patient fracture. Steinmann Pins can also be called Intramedullary Pins or IM Pins.

Kirshner Wires came along after Steinmann Pins, when Martin Kirschner realized that the larger pins caused more bone damage as well as infection. He ended up creating his own device to insert chromed piano wire into willing patients. He also figured out a way to provide more tenstion which better aligns fracture fragments and provide tension to keep it in place.

For Additional Information, please consult – http://www.customkwiremanufacturer.com/history-of-steinmann-pins-and-kirschner-wires/

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